cover image One Present from Flekman's

One Present from Flekman's

Alan Arkin, Richard Egielski. HarperCollins, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-024530-6

Arkin (The Lemming Condition) offers a pressure-cooker comedy about the dangers of indecision and greed. Molly's Grampa suggests a trip to Flekman's, ""the biggest toy store in the world."" It's a fabulous idea, except for the catch: "" `Maybe I'll get some toys there,' said Molly. `Maybe you'll get one toy there,' said Grampa."" Molly pretends to accept this bargain, and the two soon stroll into showrooms teeming with games, dolls and other enticements. As Grampa fiercely sticks to his one-present limit, Molly devises wily strategies: she outfits one teddy bear with a host of auxiliary toys, requests one bag packed with playthings and finally decides she'd like Flekman's itself (""It's one thing, isn't it?""). Grampa finally loses his cool (in the neurotic fashion of most Alan Arkin movie roles). Meanwhile, Molly succumbs to a rare case of ""Flekmanitis""--more like Flekmanic-depression--that leaves her alternately berserk and stupefied. Caldecott winner Egielski (Hey, Al; Buz) punctuates the hectic narrative pace with mannerly vignettes and just a sprinkling of full-throttle action sequences. But the overflowing words often crowd the pictures off the pages; the illustrations get smaller as the tension rises. Even for satire, this humor has an unpleasant edge--Molly's behavior is more embarrassing than amusing. The denouement, in which Molly settles on a washcloth, feels medicinal, and the finale, in which Molly's ingenuity with the washcloth lands her a job at Flekman's, seems an attempt to scare up a happy ending. Ages 5-8. (May)